Push for greater state autonomy

Saturday March 10, 2012

EXCESSIVE regulation will stop a country from becoming a knowledge-based economy.

To prevent this, more research on decentralisation is necessary, Penang Institute (PI) execu- tive director Dr Woo Wing Thye said.

“This is a major research area not because the Oppositions want to grab power but because of over-centralisation. This is the situation today and it has resulted in less equality, prosperity and efficiency. It is oppressive.

“A country only opts for centralisation in times of emergency like during the communist insurgence or May 13. Over-regulation (by the Federal Government) during these times was then necessary.

“Today, is over-centralisation justifiable? For instance, the public bus routes here are decided in Putrajaya but surely our local authorities have better knowledge for the task,” the Penang-born US economist said.

He was speaking at the ‘Decentralisation in Malaysia’ forum organised by PI.

Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong said the Penang Bridge, port, roads and public transportation system were under federal purview but the various authorities in charge were not in communication with each other.

“It is all very fragmented, hence, power at all levels must be realigned,” he said.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) founding president Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Tuanku Muhriz said the Adat Perpatih of Negri Sembilan was intrinsically a decentralised system.

“Once upon a time, Malaya was made up of sovereign states but during the Malayan Union, everything became very centralised and unitary.

“Sovereignty was lent from the Rulers of the state to the institution of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong in 1948,” he said.

He said it was more pragmatic for the different states to have greater say in their administration.

“If all the states are given more power (to manage their affairs), there will be a great competition between the state governments. People will then have a choice to choose which state they prefer to dwell,” he said.

Retired prominent architect Datuk Seri Lim Chong Keat said the problem was “bad centrali-sation” while Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Penang branch adviser Datuk O.K. Lee said ensuring transparency was more crucial than decentralisation.

The two-hour forum was held at the state legislative assembly building in George Town recently.

The roundtable discourse was opened by Penang State Assembly Speaker Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain.

In his opening speech, Abdul Halim said it was crucial, even within the state government, to have better decentralisation.

“Non-governmental organisations (NGO), government departments, academicians and all stakeholders should serve as a check and balance to the state government.

“We cannot just leave everything to the Parliamentarians and state assemblymen,’’ he said.

The Star

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